With Kobe Bryant’s recent announcement that he’ll be retiring at the end of the year, fans began to prepare for his ‘Farewell’ tour. Bryant made it a top priority to try and play in every game this season in order to give the fans one last look of him on the court.
Still, 20 years into his career Kobe puts the enjoyment of the crowd above his own personal health. Bryant has always publicly thought along the lines of, “When I go into an arena, this might be a kids first ever game” so it’s no surprise how determined he is to play if possible.
However, the recent spike in Kobe’s minutes since announcing his retirement is a cause for major concern. Last year in the 35 games Bryant played before going down with a season ending rotator cuff tear, he averaged 34.5 minutes per game. In the 16 games he’s played this season he’s just under 32 minutes at 31.6 minutes per game. But since Bryant announced his retirement his minutes have jumped a bit to 34.0 minutes per game. Kobe hasn’t played less than 30 minutes in a full game since November 24th against Golden State (He played 25 minutes through 3 quarters against the Pistons before bowing out due to illness).
Being a 37 year old NBA player with over 47,000 career minutes played, and coming off TWO season ending injuries, this is not ideal to say the least. Bryant’s body can’t take the constant pounding and effort required to be consistently productive. Bryant also moved to the SF spot this season, which requires him to guard stronger, sometimes taller, more physical guys. 86% of his time on the court he is at the small forward spot, and only 14% at his natural shooting guard spot (His highest average at the SF spot since his rookie year). The heavy minutes, tough defensive assignments, offensive workload Kobe has, or thinks he has, and age are definitely not working in Kobe’s favor.
Sunday night against Detroit there was speculation Bryant might not play due to not feeling well. In the middle of a long road trip, and having a back to back that which started tonight in Detroit, Kobe should not have played tonight. Bryant already has to battle his body, soreness, and fatigue nightly. Being under the weather would only make him a bigger liability on the floor. And it showed. In the first half, Kobe was 0-7 from the field, 0-3 from deep, had only 1 rebound and assist, 2 turnovers, and went scoreless. The Lakers trailed by 23 at the half, 65-42.
As this season began to develop, we all knew the Lakers would not be battling for a playoffs stop. So many questioned why Byron Scott is playing Kobe 30+ minutes in meaningless games like the one tonight.
With the season’s focus shifting to Kobe’s farewell tour, you would think the top priority would be keeping Bryant healthy, active, feeling good, and available to play in each game. During the 2012-2013 NBA season, Kobe averaged 29.4 minutes per game before suffering a season ending injury. Last year in 35 games played, Bryant averaged 34.5 minutes per game before suffering a season ending injury. This season? 31.6, which has jumped to 34.0 after Kobe announced he’ll be retiring when the season is over.
You can see the trend here. Sunday night against Detroit, Bryant logged in 25:35 minutes in only 3 quarters of play. Bryant left the game after playing the whole third quarter with stomach problems. After the game, Bryant had to receive an IV in his arm. Not to mention this is the first of a back to back and Scott hasn’t ruled out Kobe for tomorrow against Toronto.
The Lakers are 3-17. There are 62 games left this season and Bryant’s body is already failing him. Back problems, constant soreness, and now stomach issues requiring an IV after another meaningless game. With the way this year is going and the heavy minutes Kobe Bryant has been playing of late, I fear we’ll have to bid farewell to Kobe Bryant due to injury, and not when the season ends on April 12th vs. Utah.